Anti-mining groups laud South Cot environment code

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/21 June) – Outgoing South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes is yet to sign the Provincial Environment Code passed last week by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, but this early the ordinance has obtained praises from religious leaders and civil society groups in Manila and Mindanao that are opposed to mining.

“The code was quite controversial as it contained a specific provision putting a ban on open pit mining in the province. Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), is operating in parts of South Cotabato, in what is reportedly one of the largest nickel deposits in Asia,” said Fr. Romeo Catedral, Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel.

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina said the “Sanggunian displayed unwavering strength and resolve by asserting their right to determine the appropriate mode and direction of local development that their constituencies require”.

Garganera also thanked the community in South Cotabato for “standing their ground
in championing their belief for sustainable development, by consistently pursuing and supporting the passage of their Provincial Environment Code.”

Blas Tabaranza, executive director of Haribon Foundation noted that “open pit mining wreaks havoc on the environment due to deforestation and the subsequent loss of habitat for wildlife.

Tabaranza described the passage of the code as responsive to the continuing degradation of Mindanao’s environment.

Judy Pasimio, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center said that the passage of the code is “beyond any legal infirmity.” She said local autonomy is enshrined in the Constitution.

She extolled the code as “an assertion of the autonomy of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato to manage their natural resources and ensure the general welfare of the people”.

“This legal mandate cannot be thwarted by threats and insinuations of SMI and their supporters. They (local officials) should not falter, as they are in the side of the people.”

”The environment code, pushed and supported by the people, puts to test the national government’s resolve to respect the rights of local government and the spirit of the local autonomy,” Catedral said
He called on officials of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) not to pressure Gov. Fuentes into vetoing the code.

He said the dignity of the people of South Cotabato does not have to rely on the supposed economic benefits that mining will bring.

“We are not even convinced mining will uplift our economic condition,” he said.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops of the Conference (CBCP) said the code will be “leaving behind a legacy of intergenerational justice that gives a reasonable certainty for the children of South Cotabato that their future will not involve a serious scarcity of resources and a critical imbalance to the rich agricultural diversity of the province”.

South Cotabato’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week approved the code that carries a provision banning open-pit mining.

The move triggered pickets by SMI supporters at the capitol and outside Gov. Fuentes’ residence.

Fuentes last week said the provincial board which passed the Code “reflects the voices of the people, and they voted landslide to approve (it). I will sign that before I leave office (on June 30), she said. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)